# Statistics with Common Sense

## Synopsis

Applying statistical results to real life situations can be difficult or futile if you can't be certain what the results actually mean. This reference guide provides readers with the frequently elusive link between statistical results and practical applications. Students will learn the basic concepts and principles of statistics and probability, without getting bogged down in complicated theories and abstractions.

## Excerpt

Statistics is primarily a way of making decisions in the face of variability and uncertainty. Often some new treatment is first tried on a few individuals and there seems to be some improvement. We want to decide whether we should believe the improvement is “for real” or just the result of chance variation. The treatment may be some actual medical treatment, or it may be the application of a new fertilizer to a crop or an assessment of the effect of particular social circumstances on social outcomes. In many professional areas people want to answer the same basic question: “Does this make a real difference?” In the modern world this question is answered by statistics.

Statistics is therefore part of the training course for people in a wide range of professions. Sadly, though, statistics remains a bit of a mystery to most students and even to some of their statistics teachers. Formulas and rules are learned that lead to an answer to the question, “Does this make a genuine difference?” in various situations. However, when people actually come to apply statistics in real life they are generally uneasy. They may be uneasy not only because they have forgotten which formula to apply in which situation or which button to press on the computer, but also because the formula or the computer is using criteria that they never properly understood to make important decisions that sometimes don't accord with common sense. People in this situation are right to be uneasy. Statistics applied correctly but without full understanding can lead to the most inappropriate, even bizarre decisions. Common sense without any assistance from statistical analysis will often lead to more sensible decisions. Nevertheless, statistics has conquered the world of modern decision making. Few people notice that many statisticians don't believe in statistics as it is currently practiced. Statistics can of course be used wisely, but this depends on the user properly understanding the meaning of

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